Boris Johnson and his toughest test yet – buying a new home

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Boris Johnson and his toughest test yet – buying a new home

Moving house is one of life’s most stressful experiences, so my sympathies are with Carrie Johnson having to haul her young family out of Downing Street and Chequers.

It’s a nightmare whatever the circumstances, but heaven knows what it’s like when the move is not of your choice and you have a wounded bull of a husband pacing around, no doubt not exactly on-message when it comes to putting in the time browsing the online property sites.

Whether or not the Johnsons will be packing their cardboard boxes shortly or have until autumn to find somewhere, they will be joining the febrile London property market, which is still a dastardly place.

Boris Johnson will have to move out of 10 Downing Street now that his time as Prime Minister is coming to to an end

Prime properties are bought before they’ve even been publicly listed. Money is being handed over at the time of offers before any formal exchange, just to ensure no other bidder gets a look in.

And the Johnsons fall plumb into the most competitive demographic – couples with young children who want a garden and probably some space for a home office.

We can assume that Boris will be given some office space by one of his friends for when he isn’t hurtling around the world on the speaker circuit. But even so he’ll need somewhere to finish the book on Shakespeare that he agreed with a publisher to write.

And while he’s probably pretty blithe about family homes, having brought up one brood already, for Carrie this will be her first family nest.

More from Alexandra Shulman for the Daily Mail…

The battle to find places with sizeable gardens, good nearby schools and space for a home office is intense but the key, non-negotiable ask is the kitchen. Not any old kitchen either. Not a perfectly useful kitchen that does the basic job of being a room to cook in and house the fridge and dishwasher.

That’s not what people want from a kitchen now.

Instead, they want to buy a kitchen with a house attached.

Several people I know who’ve reached the downsizing stage have recently put their homes on the market. They’ve watched a parade of younger couples inspect their much-loved family home with the cold scrutiny of a surgeon.

Without so much as a glance at the ‘original features’ such as the magnificent fireplaces, immaculate cornicing, decorative ceiling roses and Victorian hall tiling – for long a selling point of such houses – the prospective buyers march straight for where they hope to find the kitchen at the back of the house.

If they fail to find the sort of kitchen extension that has turned it into the major living space with epic doors leading out into a garden, those prospective buyers will run for the hills.

On the upside, it’s not evident that either Carrie or Boris care hugely about cooking, so maybe they can avoid that particular queue. Instead, they might find a perfect knock-down price gem with lots of scope for interior decoration and wallpaper should Carrie wish, with a small, old-fashioned kitchen.

Somewhere to reheat a curry and knock up some boiled eggs with bread and butter soldiers but which lacks the Corian-topped surfaces and bar stool vibe of the kitchen-island TV dramas. In that case, they may find their dream home in next to no time.

Romy, Carrie’s little bundle of comfort

Seeing Carrie carrying her daughter Romy in a papoose as she watched her husband’s resignation speech reminded me how comforting tiny children can be.

I’m sure somebody else could have kept an eye on Romy for a few minutes, but having that warm bundle clamped to her would have been the most effective security blanket for such a distressing moment.

Much is spoken of the stress of looking after young children, but their disengagement from what else is happening in your life, their demands to be put first and their need and desire for you is the most wonderful panacea when times are hard.

Seeing Carrie carrying her daughter Romy in a papoose as she watched her husband’s resignation speech reminded me how comforting tiny children can be 

My thumbs-up for the tennis gladiators

If ever proof were needed to show we haven’t evolved much since Roman times, you have only to watch this year’s Wimbledon.

With so many of the bigger beasts out of the picture, there have been a huge number of five-set matches, many decided on tie-breaks which are surely the most brutal of ways to lose. The baying of the crowd as the tension rises is not so different to those gladiatorial contests of centuries past as the players give their all to the very end.

Whether it is the imperial thumbs-up or thumbs-down or one failed drop-shot, it’s just one moment and winner takes all.

Back in a world of Covid confusion

Everyone seems to have Covid, or perhaps it’s just everyone that I know. If it weren’t so confusing, it might not be comment-worthy but the uncertainty about how to behave is almost as wearing as the illness. Are we meant to self-isolate at home? How long are we contagious? Are we contagious if still positive? How long are we meant to test for?

There appear to be no definitive answers now that there are no official guidelines.

Many people are just choosing not to test at all, preferring to assume they have a bit of a cold rather than Covid, which allows them to go to work, socialise and pass their virus to everyone else.

All this has turned summer into a chaotic nightmare of indecision and uncertainty.

And that’s before any attempt to navigate the multitude of cancelled flights.

Now Big Boyfriend is watching over us

I was with my son the other day waiting for his girlfriend to arrive. ‘Hang on a moment,’ he said. ‘I can see where she is on the map.’

On his phone, he showed me her lovely face on a map, in a circle just a millimetre from the little blue dot representing our location.

How very convenient – and yet how absolutely ghastly. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would want my partner to be able to track me, or vice versa. Nor would I have wanted to sign up for that in my 20s.

Talk about Big Boyfriend is watching you.

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